All stages of his boundary-crossing PhD research were equally precious to dr. Daniel Monteiro Cunha. First of all, the creation of a three-dimensional electrode for solid-state battery applications was exhibited. Additionally, models and methods for its study and simulation were suggested and shown. And, finally, the electrochemical response was demonstrated: the observed features were explained by the composition and dimensions obtained. ‘We were able to grow, control, and manipulate the composite pillars as we like,’ Daniel vividly shares.
Although a range of vertically aligned nanocomposites (VANs) was studied this last decade, lithium-based VANs toward battery applications have remained unexplored. ‘It’s a novel approach,’ Daniel says. ‘In entering this new territory of research, I worked on parallel topics, in all of which significant progress has been made.’
At this very moment – a few weeks after his successful Thesis Defense in March 2021 - Daniel plans on writing a research proposal, to study a group of promising solid-state battery concepts in a systematic way. ‘I am very happy to continue working on this in a permanent appointment, within the Mesa+ research group: Inorganic Materials Science,‘ he says.
Using smart 3D geometries and making use of self-assembling pulsed laser deposition techniques, new boundaries in battery technology could be challenged, in contrast to conventional planar 2D batteries.
‘In general, we strive for a better energy versus power balance, increasing the internal surface area,’ Daniel explains. ‘Thereby, it was very helpful to work on battery concepts in collaboration with Professor Marnix Wagemaker, a leader of the Storage of Electrochemical Energy, at TU Delft. I’ve gained a lot of knowledge from him on future battery concepts.’
An important element of Daniel’s research approach is to perform fundamental research while paying attention to future application potential. Here, the yearlong contacts with UT spin-off Solmates BV were of prime importance. ‘Here, we can test the practical feasibility of our ideas in an early stage already. Using their larger-scaled laser deposition and testing equipment, we perform research staying close to potential market adaptation and scale-up potential.’
During the yearly Mesa+ Day, in 2019 – in which all Mesa+ Groups and PhD’s participate – Daniel was lucky to meet guest speaker Professor Judith MacManus-Driscoll from the University of Cambridge.
‘First of all, it was a great honor, as she is one of the founders of the research field: spontaneous patterning in the growth of oxides,’ Daniel says. ‘She acknowledged my simulations. Herein the various features of developing and designing future 3D solid-state batteries can be modelled and simulated systematically. First of all, this was a great achievement in my PhD report, which my supervisor, Professor Mark Huijben, acknowledged greatly. Secondly, it now serves as a welcome guide towards future research, which I’m planning to perform here at the University of Twente. One can see the international character of scientific research at work here. I was very lucky to be at the heart of it, as a MESA+ researcher.’
Daniel took great advantage of the equipment and expertise of lab personal. ‘For example, the self-assembly pulsed laser deposition systems are beyond compare,’ he says. ‘Also, the atomic force microscopy systems are fully accessible, as the lab activities and supervision are well-organized. Not having to worry about that, most certainly, provides peace of mind, which is very important for scientific progress.’
Daniel was lucky to have finished most of his experimental work before the actual Corona crisis hit. ‘When UT opened again in June, the labs could be used to approximately forty percent in capacity,’ he says. ‘There were some limitations, but we managed to share our facilities efficiently. And I learnt to plan my experiment measurements even better.’